Bob Libal to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

The policies of criminally prosecuting migrants have built a shadow detention system on top of our nation’s already vast and troubled system of civil detention...Individuals in our nation’s civil detention system include asylum-seekers, women with children, parents of U.S. citizen children, long-time legal permanent residents, and recently arriving migrants. -Bob Libal

Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal will testify before the U.S. Comission on Civil Rights at the State of Civil Rights in Detention Facilities hearing at 2:30pm (EST). Bob's testimony will include evidence that creating and expanding an unaccountable for-profit detention system ineheretly violates the civil rights of immigrants. There are countless examples of civil rights violations in the vast network of immigrant detention facilities that are mandatorily filled due to the 34,000 bed quota set by Congress in a 2007 appropriations bill. Operation Streamline, as Bob describes in his testimony, has criminalized the act of immigration and is another means to expand the reach of the private prison industry in the federal prison system. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is unable to maintain enough facilities, so it contracts with private prison corporations—namely Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group—which have a vested interest in maintaining and expanding detention for immigrants because it provides them with a wider income stream.<--break->

Family detention, one of Grassroots Leadership's and Texans United for Families' primary campaigns, has returned after a five-year hiatus under President Obama. Apparently, ICE has developed short term memory of civil rights violations that occurred in the T. Don Hutto family detention center in Texas—abuse of all kinds perpetrated against vulnerable, asylum-seeking mothers and children—because reports of the same have already surfaced in the short time that the Karnes County center has been open. Sexual, mental, and physical abuse is not limited to only immigrant family detention centers. The private corporations that warehouse thousands of immigrants for ICE are notorious for not providing them with adequate nutrition and medical care. They are verbally abused, kept inside small cells for the majority of the day, when they have done nothing wrong except to come to a country in which they weren't born.

Grassroots Leadership recommends that Congress prioritize policies that would reduce immigration detention, and end family detention. ICE should reduce its reliance on private prison contractors, terminate contracts at facilities with records of civil rights abuses, and be subject to more Congressional oversight for new contracts.

During the hearing, Congress will hear from Bob and other immigrant rights advocates, as well as the private companies that profit from immigrant detention. To watch the hearing and Bob's testimony, you can live stream the hearing here. You can also read his written testimony.